Year of Release: 2000
Label: The Laser's Edge
Catalog Number: LE1033
Total Time: 53:56:00
Where I thought of Echolyn with "May-Fly," the first track off The Underground Railroad's debut album Through And Through, it is King Crimson and ELP that I thought of with "The Comprachicos Of The Mind," track two. Specifically I thought of "Starless" from Red (before I got to the actual word "starless" that appeared in the lyrics) and "Third Impression" from Brain Salad Surgery, though more so of the latter than the former. While the whole track itself doesn't remind me of "Third Impression," it is the vocal melody that appears about three, three and half minutes in that is the same as the "Rejoice! Glory is ours" refrain from "Third..."
Now, one vocal phrase does not an influence make - the remainder of "Comprachicos" is at times very like ELP, and yet, the middle five minutes and more atmospheric rock, slowly evolving synth passages, some guitar works that sort of burps along in circular patterns. The entire track times at more than 10 minutes. The "Third"-like refrain repeats and then we get some Emersonian keys before the track segues into "In The Factory." Less Emersonian, but the hints are still there...though the keys are lighter, more parpy. Then we get into a bit of angularity with harsh piano notes ... becomes some quietly churning atmospherics ... back to the harsh, smooth out into more ELP-like arrangements...
And then we shift gears entirely, as the "The Doorman" sounds like a duet between Steve Hogarth and Nick Barrett, though clearly it is one vocalist. Even though both Bill Pohl and Kurt Rongey are credited with vocals on the album, it is Rongey who has written most of the lyrics. While not a rule, generally that indicates he's responsible for most of the singing (one only needs to think of Rush to know that it's not the rule). At any rate, the vocalist here has a Barrett-like tone and Hogarth-like delivery. Musically, it is closer to Pendragon, but because other influences are at play here, it goes off in wildly different directions. There are some odd sounding keyboard parts about halfway through, before the arrangement bulks up to a prog metal like groove - just this side of crunchy. The ELP influence flits in and out for a note or two, but that's about it.
Just for something different, I thought of Eris Pluvia during "Mars" - though there are some notes that vaguely sound like a violin, adding a Kansas feel to the track as well. Something in Rongey's delivery that is like Alessandro Serri's.
The title track is a 20 minute epic that ties up the musical influences into one, and yet, unlike the other tracks, seems to not be derivative of any one particular track. The contrasts between light and dark create a beautiful and tense atmosphere. There are some beautiful keyboard passages, so quite and gentle, lulling, that you just know that something sinister is up ahead ... it's just too calm. Sure enough, as the tension builds the sense that something is there grows, too - the tones become darker, heavier... but before the tension fully breaks...it goes off into another direction ... leaving you with a "cliffhanger" feeling. You've moved to another scene, a "meanwhile elsewhere" type. Ah, but here, too, the keyboard passages are gently deceptive (if you check the lyrics at this point, you'll see we're only on the second stanza). Of course, the word pictures Rongey is painting aren't sinister at all... though there is a Fish-like poeticism about them.
Despite the similarities to bands I like, it is the title track that I find to be the best of the album. Yes it is like much symphonic and neo-progressive that is being created today, and in that regards, The Underground Railroad aren't breaking new ground. But with this last epic, it at least sounds fresh and original ... well, except for a few guitar notes that reminded me of the intro to Marillion's "King Of Sunset Town."
[Turns out it's both Rongey and Pohl sharing the vocals on "The Doorman" ... which, when I think about it, makes obvious sense ... and thus not so clearly one vocalist.]
May-Fly (3:52) / The Comprachicos Of The Mind (10:18) / In The Factory (5:35) / The Doorman (10:05) / Mars (4:33) / Through And Through (20:13)
Bill Pohl - guitars, guitar synthesizer, bass pedals, vocals
John Livingston - drums
Matt Hembree - bass and background vocals
Kurt Rongey - keyboards and vocals
Through And Through (2000)
The Origin Of Consciousness (2005)
Genre: Progressive Rock